Friday, June 5, 2015

Against the dark

 It is human nature to rebel against the encroachment of winter. At the Steiner School in the late afternoon, the rain cleared, and Darkness stepped coolly towards us.
 The air was alive with chirping children's voices. 'I know where he's gone,' said a young boy. 'He's gone to the bamboo forest.' Pranks were played, naughtiness frolicked amongst the trees, and all the time the lanterns began to appear. As Darkness threw her cloak over the end of day, more and more lights twinkled from the trees.
 Then circles formed in the classrooms as the children were called inside. Their bellies were full and warm with tai chicken curry, dahl on rice, and hot tomato or buttercup soup. Our little one is in Class One, and we waited outside in the dark, wondering what would come next.
 And then they began to emerge, little processions from each room.
 Each one had its own style of lantern, depending on the age of the children and what they could manage.
 Gradually they formed their lines, until all the classes were gathered. Silence. Waiting. Then the bagpipes began to play. A violin followed.
After an invocation to Matariki (the Pleiades), which is soon to return and mark the Maori new year, the children began to sing - Maori, Scottish, English songs and rounds, ringing out beautifully in the shivering air. Music drifting over the cloak of Darkness, while lanterns blinked and winked—and my cheeks softened, wet with tears.
 Time collapsed and rolled into a ball, in which centuries past and this very day here and now all folded around one another, and by the time the hooded senior pupils came on with their flaming torches to banish the darkness, I no longer knew which era I was born into.
 Asserting 'enough!' Turning the sun around. Banishing the dark of the dark. I tumble and roll back forty years or so, remembering these words of Thomas Hardy in 'The Return of the Native' as he described bonfires being lit on the hilltops of Wessex:

'. . . to light a fire is the instructive and resistant act of man [sic] when, at the winter ingress, the curfew is sounded throughout Nature.'
'It indicates a spontaneous Promethean rebelliousness against the fiat that this current season shall bring foul times, cold darkness, misery and death.
Black chaos comes, and the fettered gods of the earth say, Let there be light.'
Time rolls around again, and I am a young child, returning to drink up a sense of wonder and ceremony that I didn't have at school. It is never too late to receive what was missing. And to rejoice that my granddaughter is having it all now.

11 comments:

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Juliet - it's good to see you back .. though as you know I'm now missing - enjoying our flaming globule in the sky ... when it deigns to appear. What a wonderful telling and showing for the children to appreciate - no wonder your little one will feel so at home in school. It's so good to read about your thoughts on life in NZ ... and Maori spirits that inspire and live with us - as too our wayside folk here ... take care and enjoy the darkening days, for soon light will start to rise again. Cheers Hilary

silkannthreades said...

Indeed, it is never too late. How precious to share this time with your granddaughter and the other young ones.

Penny O'Neill said...

How beautiful and mystical this feels to me reading this, Juliet. I can almost hear the children's voices and see the slowly emerging light from the lanterns.
"It is never too late to receive what was missing." - what a lesson there is to be learned from your words.

Juliet Batten said...

* Hilary, yes it's good to be catching up at last, and revisiting others' blogs too. May the flaming globule shine brightly on you. The little one loves going to school.
* Vicky, these are times we will always remember.
* Penny, it was truly mystical. The magic is still with me.
Hilary, Vicky and Penny, thank you for your comments. It's such a pleasure to wake up and find them in the morning, knowing they've been winging their way here while I was asleep.

Hotly Spiced said...

Yes, I have been known to rebel against winter. This must have been such a special evening. I love all the pretty lanterns. Your granddaughter must have had the most wonderful night xx

Juliet Batten said...

Charlie, the lanterns were so gorgeous. I asked my granddaughter what she liked best, & she said 'all of it'! Thank you.

Vicki Lane said...

Oh, what a beautiful ceremony and how well you described it! What lucky children to have a school like that! Do you know Susan Cooper's DARK IS RISING books? They embody that same sense of wonder and attention to seasons.

Juliet Batten said...

Vicki, those children truly are very lucky. I don't know those books, but will look for them. Thank you so much.


Juliet Batten said...

Vicki, those children truly are very lucky. I don't know those books, but will look for them. Thank you so much.


Juliet Batten said...

Gallivanta, thank you so much for your comment. This is precious time indeed.

Juliet Batten said...
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